By Nick Shook
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1. It’s been a while since we’ve had a back-and-forth game between two of the NFL’s contending teams. Well, OK, we’ll count last week’s Seattle-Houston game. But this one was of a higher caliber. This one felt like two heavyweights, trading blows in a slugfest. First, it was Dak Prescott‘s scramble for a score and seemingly a 14-3 lead heading into halftime. But being the contender it is, Kansas City did not relent, scoring in unlikely fashion thanks to Tyreek Hill right at halftime.
As the game unfolded, both teams’ records floated on the screen below their abbreviations: 6-2 (Kansas City) and 4-3 (Dallas). For most of this contest, you could have swapped records and it would have been believable. We can’t say that too often about games being played at this time of the year.
2. In the end, what downed the Chiefs was what necessitated their furious comeback: They couldn’t get stops when needed most. Dallas converted 7 of 12 third down attempts and for the game, were about as balanced as possible, gaining 13 first downs through the air and 10 on the ground. As a defense, the yardage total wasn’t all that bad — Dallas gained 375 — but the inability to force Dallas to punt ended up being the difference.
3. We already knew Dak Prescott had something special in him, but Sunday was something else from the quarterback. Against a high-quality opponent, Prescott upped his play to exceed his nemesis, firing darts to five different teammates and using his feet to make plays when needed most. He finished with a line of 21-of-33 passing for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and ran three times for 27 yards and an additional score. Rich Eisen said it best as Dallas attempted to salt away the win: Prescott was nothing short of terrific and most valuable. With the potential Ezekiel Elliott suspension seemingly forever looming, the play of Prescott is massively important. On Sunday, he proved he can handle the load.
4. Plenty can be said about Elliott, Dez Bryant and even Jason Witten, but Cole Beasley is becoming about as important to this team as any of them. The diminutive but skilled slot man caught four passes for 24 yards and two touchdowns, including one that essentially put it away for the Cowboysin the fourth. When one thinks Cowboys, he/she understandably doesn’t think Beasley, but he continues to be a major, yet understated factor for Dallas’ offense.
The lone downer: Terrance Williams was having one heck of a day (nine receptions, 141 yards), but went down with an injury in the final three minutes of the game. There’s potential upside, though: Jason Garrett told reporters he thinks Williams will be “fine” despite leaving the game.
5. Tony Romo soothed Kansas City’s worries as the final seconds ticked off, commending the Chiefsand giving most of the credit for the outcome to the Cowboys and their play. This holds up, but it’s time to become concerned about Kansas City’s running game. For the fourth straight game, Kareem Huntwas held under 100 yards rushing, gaining just 37 on Sunday. For the second time in that same stretch, Kansas City handed the ball to him less than 10 times. As a team, the Chiefs ran the ball just 19 times for 68 yards. Hunt’s yards gained after close on Sunday was 3.48, his third worst this season, per Next Gen Stats.
It’s understandable to go away from the run if a defense is bottling it up, and if the offense is facing a deficit. Dallas was going a good job of that early on Sunday. But after regaining the lead, Kansas City never shifted back to what has worked for it. The Chiefs have lost three of their last four. They’ve run the ball less than 25 times in all three of those losses (they ran it 26 times for 79 yards in the win over Denver). In the last three games, their total rushing yards have dropped in each. In Kansas City’s three losses, the Chiefs‘ total yards gained after close were their worst three totals of the season, with the Dallas game being the worst at just 34 for the game. These numbers and the resulting losses are no coincidence. This must change if Kansas City, which still owns a nice lead in the AFC West, wants to trend upward as it heads toward the latter portion of the season.